Despite being shot down earlier, it is again being debated whether or not hypothetical questions should be allowed and whether we should abide by the "Real problems or questions that you’ve encountered." rule.

To quote the comments on the question,

From the tour. "Real problems or questions that you’ve encountered."

That is why hypothetical questions don't work here.

Given that it was an actual occurrence and not a contrived "what if" I voted to reopen.

really bad question (obviously hypothetical and hardly very insightful)


Questions that I would consider to be about hypothetical situations include,

I am considering these as hypothetical since either the person wants the information for a story or because the OP doesn't literally have a fishhook stuck in them or been bitten by a rattlesnake and in immediate danger of dying etc.

Obviously, people get stuck by fishhooks and bitten by rattlesnakes but we shouldn't have to wait until it becomes an actual problem to ask about it.

The other thing is that is it hard to judge what is a real problem and what is not.

Consider these real outdoor questions that are so rare that someone might think they are hypothetical but actually happened.

In fact, if you ever attend a Wilderness First Responder training, you will notice that a lot of the training is done by either acting out or talking through hypothetical questions. .

For the question that mostly sparked this debate, yes its about medical things, but it is possible to find the official answer written by the co-founder of the Wilderness Medical Society. That's a more official answer than a lot of the other medical questions on here.

We have other questions that approach the approximate level of risk, including relocating a dislocated shoulder, treating venomous snake bites, tourniquets, burn wounds, open wounds etc.

In summary, I think the question (which is not entirely hypothetical) should be reopened and that we should allow hypothetical questions instead of mandating that they become real problems first.

I am so not waiting until I have a fishhook stuck into me to ask about how to remove it.

  • 2
    Just want to note, re: my question about getting impaled - I know what to do in a non-survival situation where help is available. Since something very similar happened to what I asked, I had wanted to know for a while what could have been done to improve my sister's odds of survival were we not so lucky. This is why I didn't ask on a medical site and think it's more appropriate to the topic of outdoor survival. If medical procedures are not available then you have to make due with poor chances Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 0:10
  • I voted to reopen, and also edited the question to incorporate the OPs comments about the motivation for his question and to tidy up the English. The answer to your question here, Charlie, is how ridiculous to suggest that someone will have to amputate his forearm to save his life! :)
    – ab2
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 0:50
  • 2
    I dont think the problem is the general hypothetical question Many questions will have to be hypothetical and there is no way out of it. But that doesnt mean the website should allow all hypotetical questions or all medical questions or any questions simply because they are in the outdoors. The impaled question has a worldbuilding kind of feel, It should be much more specific. Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 2:10
  • 1
    @GarethClaborn Medical procedures are always available when you start working on an injury as thats the procedure you should follow. In a situation like the one you described its always pack, pray, get help. In a trauma of that magnitude, a proper assessment is needed before even starting moving somebody. To improve somebody's odds what you can do is take some first aid and wilderness first aid courses. Following a few tips from the net could even reduce the odds, be aware of that Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 2:26
  • @ErikvanDoren re: medical procedure, perhaps a poor choice of words on my part for brevity - i'm referring to the lack of availability of: a doctor, a hospital, a sterile environment, specialized medications/tools. my question tried to ask about what supplies would be useful but that was met with some complications Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 15:50
  • @ErikvanDoren That question is not WorldBuilding at all. I frequent the WorldBuilding SE in addition to this one, and I will tell you that such a question would be very off topic there and would get closed (assuming it doesn't slip through without mods/high-reps noticing it, which happens frequently there).
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Feb 12, 2018 at 21:34
  • @Sue Those are questions that users might think are out there, but actually happened Commented Nov 15, 2018 at 4:34

4 Answers 4


Yes, we should allow hypothetical questions in some cases.

For the reasons listed in OPs post. And of course only if the question is still fulfilling all the other quality criteria.

I've once been part of a group trying to get a fish hook out of a little boys finger... I'd have very much appreciated some knowledge or a clever trick or something to help us out in that situation.

  • Aye to the hook, in fact caught by a fish hook is a common one. Most fishers that are close to me have gotten that at least once. When I was little, I got my father with a fish hook a few times.
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Feb 12, 2018 at 21:39

The way this meta question is phrased it is obvious: We can't ban all hypothetical questions. I mean anticipation requires thinking about scenarios, which have not yet happened, i.e. they are hypothetical. I hope nobody debates that anticipating is vital in most activities and going in without forethought is hardly ever a good idea.

I also don't think it is fair to shut down the discussion on the impalement question on this ground. This question is doubted due to a combination of asking for health related infos, which is delicate, and a very remote scenario. I don't have numbers, but I would argue a full impalement of the abdomen is purely statistically nowhere near the top of injuries that do happen, meaning there are tons of other injuries, which are more worth planning for.

In addition even correct advice that exceeds the ability level of the person administering first aid can be damaging. Therefore it is in my opinion crucial, that ability level is part of the question and is respected in the answer. Any question asking for professional level treatment advice should be closed as off topic and even worse, an answer given such advice to a layman should be downvoted to oblivion.

However impalement questions are a fascinating topic, especially for youth and they are discussed (at least in my scouts time that was the case). Advice handed around there was on the rambo type level. I am sure there is enough popular media around that does show completely incorrect behaviour faced with such an injury. Therefore I do believe a correct answer that only describes what you can do (which is very little) and even clearly states what you should not do is of merit for the very remote chance, that someone is eventually phased with this injury.

Regarding edits of the impalement questions:
After re-reading the impalement question, I now believe it is on the border to asking about expert medical treatment by stating that "Your only options are to attempt to treat them or watch them die" and by giving an extensive list of medical supplies. The answer was pre-edit and does not conform with that requirement (which is good). I will vote to close if this is the direction this question is going.

  • 1
    Agree. I would have gone as far as preferring a generic impalement question, leaving it vague, the answer that was accepted is after all generic and does not address specifically the kind of injury OP was asking about. And we seem to close one eye on what hides behind some words: "stabilizing the object" for example is not that simple without training on how to do it properly Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 14:56
  • @ab2 My bad, apparently I only read the question thoroughly once this discussion came up and was wrongly convinced the new information came in via editing - I edited this answer to be in line with reality.
    – imsodin
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 22:57
  • 1
    I am not trying to shut down discussion on whether its on-or-off topic because of medical reasons, but rather trying to point out that its pretty ridiculous to only allow real problem questions. Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 1:42
  • 1
    @CharlieBrumbaugh, You are right on the hypothetical questions but you have to admit that any question has a limit after which it turns into the ridiculous. In the impalement question, if you follow all the editing and comments including OP last comments to the edited question you can figure out that what he wanted all along was some surgery on the spot. I take TGO as a place where people share their expertise for everyone benefit, real-world experience not something that would fit in a movie. Lets allow hypothetical but ban fiction Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 12:09
  • Originally, I did not provide an extensive list of medical supplies. Stating that medical supplies could be stated in the answer, I was told 'this is not worldbuilding' . Regarding the scenario, there are still people for whom much of their lives are away from developed civilization. The only concept I'm trying to present is remoteness. When people trek out or homestead deep in the wilderness there generally are no doctors around and run to help isn't always the only consideration, and sometimes not the most viable option. Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 16:00
  • 2
    Just want to note, this is my first question in the community so i know I dont have a feel for it yet, but the barrier to entry is kind of nutty. Every suggestion I've gotten was met with an opposing rule after it was "fixed", even when moderators fixed it. Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 16:03
  • 3
    @GaretClaborn I completely get what you mean. Your first question just met some criteria which are always debated and it being about health aggravate that a lot - bad luck. I hope you don't take it personal in any way, because it most certainly isn't.
    – imsodin
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 17:42
  • 1
    all good, i think some of the comments from others on the first iteration of my question were getting pretty personal lol, but no this didn't seem that way. i could see why you'd think that so i wanted to clarify about the remoteness in case it helps or someone offers a suggested edit that makes it less of a pain point Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 18:04

Hypothetical questions aren't, in principle, any dfferent from non-hypothetical questions -- there are good ones, bad ones, and so-so ones. The bad ones and the so-so ones can often be improved if the OP is willing to answer questions for clarification raised by commenters. Even if the OP answers only in comments, those comments can be edited into the question by another user.

This recent question is an example of how a question that seemed hypothetical was clarified by the OP, and turned out not to be hypothetical at all.

My point: Let's try to clarify and improve questions when they need it, rather than focusing on the size of their coefficient of hypotheticality.


We don't get to ban questions. We get to vote to close based on our criteria. I tend to stay close to Tour guidelines with is actual event and I don't think meta supersedes the Tour. If you want to vote base on other guidelines that is up to you.

The question is not just hypothetical it is vague.

It is a bad question.

My first question was what is in the first aid kit and what is your level of medical training?

First it was a well stocked first aid kit an then edited to specific items but not limited to. And it was just a weird first aid kit. I might put a hemostat in my first aid kit but not pliers. I would not put rope and fishing line in my first aid kit.

Answers were encouraged to edit the question to match the answer.

I never got an answer to level of medical training.

Nothing on level of bleeding and other symptoms.

Nothing on how he would knows the stomach was perforated.

No indication on if the victim was ambulatory.

No indication on if the victim could hold water.

We don't know party size. From partner maybe infer 2.

What is the likely hood of other hikers coming by?

First it was could not get help in time and when suggested maybe can get help the response was well extend the time such that cannot get help in time. Then revised to what to do before going for help. First OP assumed they would die and then seems to assume they can live. If they are not going to live then you stay with them.

Chose a branch as a generic object. OP asserts a specific object would make the question to narrow. You don't come across t-post three days in.

I am OK with some level of hypothetical if it is specific but this was all over the place.

OP was snippy.

  • 1
    Some of what you have here is good; for example, "encouraged to edit question to match answer" should be a big, bright, neon sign. But as for the Q itself and the medical stuff... I would hope that you did not got answers to all those questions (level bleeding, stomach perforation, ambulatory, hold water), as then the question would be way too narrow and we would need a dozen questions to cover all the different cases, and then you need to remember the answers to all those different cases. This needs the lowest common denominator answer to be the most useful.
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Feb 12, 2018 at 21:51
  • 1
    For example, don't answer with "Since you said bleeding was X amount, this is the list of symptoms {A, B, C}, and you don't think stomach perforated..., ..., so do XYZ" but instead with "If the bleeding seems severe and will not stop, then... . You should check if victim can hold water by... and if they can hold it then do... . (and so on)" Should assume average Joe level of medical training, or maybe a very low amount of first aid training, otherwise TGO is not the place for their Q. And advice needs to be as simple as possible for us to remember when needed, or we will freak out instead.
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Feb 12, 2018 at 21:56

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .